by: Natalia DeVencenty
As the sun set on the last day of the AQHA Youth World Cup, I think that all of Team USA would agree that the past two weeks have been unforgettable. It was said best by Teri Dawn Haws. “The Youth World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you can’t really put into words. Simply being a part of this event is incredible, but experiencing success while you’re here is even more amazing.”
Individually, Mattie Dukes showed us what a true all around rider looks like! She brought home two wins in Cutting, 1st and 7th in Horsemanship, 3rd and 3rd in Hunter Under Saddle, 5th and 8th in Hunt Seat Equitation, and 10th in Showmanship! Great job Mattie; you were amazing!
Teri Dawn Haws only had a few hours with the Reining horse she drew, and nonetheless she blew us all away with her great run! She was named Champion for Team USA in Reining. The very next day, Teri Dawn showed a different horse in Ranch Riding, and clenched another win for Team USA. Not only did she rack up points for Team USA, but she was a very influential part of the team. We couldn’t have done it without her.
Caleb Sturgeon had great goes in Reining and Ranch Riding. He was named Reserve Champion in Reining and 4th in Ranch Riding. Caleb not only made Team USA proud, but he kept us all entertained with his dance moves and dynamic personality!
I was Reserve Champion and 3rd in Horsemanship, Reserve Champion and 8th in Showmanship, Reserve Champion in Hunt Seat Equitation, and Reserve Champion in Hunter Under Saddle. It was definitely a feeling I won’t forget!
Lily Atkinson was right when she said, “Every day, we showed up and put our best foot forward, whether we were out riding for hours on end, teaching horses brand new events, or even just back at the stalls cleaning, watering, bathing, or, in my case, a ton of braiding and banding. Everyone had their part in making these wins possible. These past two weeks have been the best days of my life, and my team has truly become my new family.”
In the words of Kamiah McGrath, “It’s not the belt buckles or the medals that describe Team USA, but rather the cheering, meeting people from eighteen countries, teaching Natalia and Cutter how to do Showmanship, the late nights, and early morning bus rides… these are the things that made it a time I will never forget!”
For Mattie Dukes, “It wasn’t about winning the gold medal. It was about the friendships and memories made that will last a lifetime! After all, that truly is the gold.”
Team USA was all business when we got to the barn; but, at the hotel, we had so much fun making a lip sync dance routine, practicing our monkey call, playing card games, watching movies, eating burnt popcorn, singing on the bus rides, and most importantly bonding as a family. The fun didn’t stop at the hotel. At the show, there was jump rope, bouncy horse contests, and of course lots of laughing.
Perfectly stated by Luke Guynn, “At the show, there was a feeling of competitiveness, as well as as a feeling of camaraderie because all nineteen teams wanted to represent their countries well, but they also knew we were all there for the same reason- to show our skills with our American Quarter Horses. People from other countries had no problem lending a helping hand to others so that they could excel in a class that they may not be too familiar with where they’re from.”
Mallory Vreogh’s favorite part about the World Cup was seeing everyone grow in their own way. “We all became better horsemen, friends, leaders, and overall people. That’s something you don’t get just anywhere. They say not to judge life by the minutes, but by the moments that take your breath away, and the Youth World Cup is just that.”
Alan Hind’s favorite part was seeing the hard work of his teammates and of the other countries turn into amazing performances. “The smiles on competitor’s faces were priceless, especially in the Cutting pen.”
We learned about a lot of different cultures while we were there. Talking to other kids from all over the world made us realize that life in the U.S. is very different. We are a very large country, we eat very different food, and the fact that we only speak one language is odd. Almost all of the kids at the World Cup could speak their countries primary language, as well as English and at least one other language. I even met some kids that were fluent in five different languages! The Team became friends with kids from all over the world. Jessica McAllister says, “I never would’ve had a chance to get to know these people and listen to how different their way of life is. Also, I never could’ve imagined how close I would be with my own team.” It’s truly amazing how connected you get with your team in just a few days. It’s a bond that isn’t easily broken.
Caleb Sturgeon says, “I love each and every one of my team members, and I will carry the memories with me all my life. Team USA has taught me so much about myself and how to improve, not only as an equestrian, but a person. I can’t wait to be reunited with my little family in the next few weeks at the AQHA Youth World show!”
At the end of the day, Team USA ended up winning Overall Champion Team and was fortunate enough to have the Reserve High Point Horse – Mr. Freckles Hollywood, better known as “Dirt.” To top it all off, Team USA had the High Point Cutting Rider, won by Mattie Dukes; the High Point Showmanship Rider, awarded to Mallory Vroegh; and the High Point Horsemanship Rider, clenched by Natalia DeVencenty.
Everyone on Team USA would like to extend a huge thank you to Nancy Cahill, Michelle Tidwell, and Dawn Forest for putting on this once-in-a-lifetime event and helping us all to be the best we can be. To our sponsors, clinicians, volunteers, friends, and family, none of this would be possible without your love and support. We are all eternally grateful for your help and words of encouragement. We could never thank you enough for all you have done, especially the Starbucks runs! And finally, to the owners of the horses, we can not express enough gratitude for entrusting us with your talented animals. Your kindness can not be repaid. I can speak for all of Team USA when I say that we all shed a tear or two when it was time to say goodbye to our horses. We loved them dearly, and the memories we made with them will forever be with us.
Scroll below for more fun photos from our AQHA Youth World Cup adventure!